Peace talks aimed at bringing together warring factions from South Sudan resumed on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, despite a number of Arab and African civil groups calling for a seat at the negotiating table.
A statement released on 9 February from 44 Sudanese, South Sudanese, Middle Eastern and African NGOs and rights organisations had pressed for inclusion at the second round of the talks.
Warning of a "relapse back into bloody conflict," the statement called for South Sudanese citizens to be "granted ownership" of the peace process through representation at the talks. Nineteen of the signatories were pro-democracy and women's rights groups from South Sudan.
However, Tuesday's talks only included representatives from the Government of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition).
The negotiations were slated to begin on Monday but were delayed after South Sudan failed to release four of 11 political opposition detainees who had been cleared to join the talks.
Fierce fighting broke out in South Sudan in December between rival ethnic groups loyal to President Salva Kirr and his former vice president, Riek Machar. Kiir has accused Machar, his former confidante, of staging a coup against him.
A ceasefire was reached on 23 January between the South Sudanese government and rebels, but has since been broken multiple times in sporadic fighting from both sides.
NGO members that Ahram Online spoke with have said that the ceasefire was initially problematic, namely in that it didn't provide a way to report violations. A major sticking point has been the evacuation of foreign, mostly-Ugandan, troops from the country.
Rebels have since threatened to boycott the talks unless all foreign troops withdrew. In an effort to prevent negotiations from entirely collapsing, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has called for the forces' withdrawal.
NGOs and rights groups say that their presence would serve a greater importance in lobbying for the resolution of the country's deepening humanitarian crisis, which has left thousands of people dead since mid-December and many more displaced as refugees.
The UN reports that about 723,000 people have been internally displaced while another 145,000 have fled to nearby countries.
"The human rights issue is worse due to huge atrocities committed during the fighting, and which are still going on, said Edmund Yakani, who runs Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, a South Sudanese NGO.
Yakani said that the second round of the peace talks were supposed to be "inclusive enough" for NGOs to influence the negotiation process.
He said that he fears the parties attending Tuesday's talks will not hold themselves "accountable" to any of the conference's decisions.
A summit of various NGOs in Nairobi, Kenya is currently ongoing to tackle the many issue of the conflict, including finding a way to participate in the talks.